Should An Old Way Showcase New Sports?
A Long History of Demonstration
Sports looking to win a coveted place on the Olympic sports program, and with it perceived precious validation as a sport that matters globally, used to have an opportunity at the Games as a 'demonstration sport', presented as a scheduled event but usually without official medals or records. Demonstration sports were first officially included alongside the main Olympic Games agenda at Stockholm 1912. Most Games editions through Barcelona 1992 had at least one demonstration sport.
While some Games chose events with particular local flavor (e.g. basque pelota at Barcelona 1992), the practice mostly served as sort of a testing ground for sports seeking official inclusion. Baseball was "demonstrated" five times before official inclusion in 1992 and for the next four editions. Taekwondo was demonstrated twice before its upgrade. Tennis, badminton, handball, volleyball, canoeing, and women's judo all were demonstration sports before their own inclusions in today's official summer program. On the winter side, curling, freestyle skiing, and short track speed skating all had their turn as demonstration sports.
Now, without a demonstration step, sports and event disciplines can become an official Olympic sport without any similar testing, or proof of appeal on an Olympic level. And combined with a new vision of "increasing its appeal to younger sports fans", this has meant new sports being seemingly suddenly added that may be jarring to Olympic purists.
Some changes have integrated well: beach volleyball (officially added at Atlanta 1996) and rugby sevens (Rio 2016) have been marked successes. Snowboarding (Nagano 1998) is a massive hit today, despite initial concern, proving any purists' hesitations wrong.